Donald MacDonald is the most imaginative and inventive housing architect in this part of the world, and perhaps in the whole world.
-Allan Temko, Pulitzer Prize winner, SF Chronicle
It's about time that a respected member of the architectural community faced up to social responsibilities. Democratic Architecture will hopefully recreate a public interest in housing for real people.
-James Stewart Polshek, FAIA.
Thomas Fisher, Dean, University of Minnesota, College of Architecture and Landscape Architecture
Democratic Architecture offers viable and affordable solutions to our country's housing problem. It raises questions not just about housing policy, but about larger political and ethical issues such as, How should we live? And What does a country owe its citizens?
Beth Crawford Vincent, Design LA
Donald MacDonald thrives on dealing with tough urban problems. He has an innovative mind that pushes for answers to social and political problems and an assertive passion for accomplishing solutions.
Planningweek, January 30, 1997
It is all about giving the people the home they want to enjoy and giving them the fantasy of wanting to expand. Whether they actually do it or not is really unimportant.
Building Design, March 7, 1997
MacDonald's book presents a critique of post-war planning policy in the States, typified by schemes such as the now-demolished Pruitt-Igoe project in St. Louis, plus condemnation of new towns such as Seaside, Florida, which the author describes as an "architectural abomination," demonstrating a "contempt for democracy." He proposes new models of development based on community participation and the principle of defensible space.
San Francisco Examiner, November 17, 1996
MacDonald challenges our traditional notions of how to house the people who live on the streets and can't seem to find a place in conventional homes, apartments and shelters. His book lays out a challenge for everyone involved in housing including architects, builders and city officials. He confronts those who say that ignoring the homeless is the only solution, but he also challenges those who say we can build enough conventional housing for all of the homeless. MacDonald also confronts homeowner and community groups who oppose housing projects.
Designer/Builder, August 1996
As Architects, we should derive our creative inspirations from people, instead of abstruse theories of beauty or romantic notions about the spirit of the time. The inspiration comes from responding to unfulfilled needs, which requires a willingness to view people as individuals, not types, and things as they really area, not as we would like them to be. Designs are thus rooted in the variety of human experience. Reflecting heterogeneity, continuous change, and the dignity of the individual, they express the spirit of democracy.
Excerpted from Democratic Architecture : Practical Solutions to Today's Housing Crisis by Donald MacDonald.
In democratic architecture, there are no such rules, no preconceived and inflexible notions of how much space a worker or anybody else needs or should have, and certainly no attempt to bring liberty by means of order. The goal is to provide people with a private, secure, and congenial place to live at an affordable cost. That means creating space that they can control and dominate, instead of being dominated by it. Unlike the peasant Pakhom [in Leo Tolstoy's "How Much Land Does a Man Need?"], they should not have to keep looking elsewhere and moving on to obtain more space as their needs increase and fortunes wax. A home should be alive; it should grow and change, and as it matures, gain a distinct personality.
Finally comes a book that grapples with the complex realities of the housing crisis in the United States. Architect Donald MacDonald provides an astute critique of the various approaches to postwar housing, and then puts forth a number of his own innovative, prototypical solutions to the problem. MacDonald's proposal for democratic architecture are based on four principles: that every human being has a right to an affordable home; that people should be able to manipulate their residential environments, for expanding and dividing spaces to changing facades easily and inexpensively; that in deciding where and how to construct housing every effort be made to prevent damage to the environment; and last, that residential design must express the multiplicity of society, not some ideal or political ideology. Many of his proposals are practical designs for low- and lower-middle-income housing, with an emphasis on increasing opportunities for home ownership. They include a variety of detached homes, multiunit buildings, and some alternative types of housing for people whose lifestyles diverge from the mainstream. Here you will find tested, workable schemes - not pipe dreams - that go a long way in addressing the housing crisis. Written in an engaging, straightforward style, Democratic Architecture is required reading for urban planners, policymakers, and social scientists - as well as architecture and design professionals.